Liverpool’s 2014/15 Champions League ‘odyssey’ ended up lasting only six games, five of which they failed to win, meaning Brendan Rodgers’ side’s outstanding efforts in reaching second in the top flight last term proved practically pointless.
It’s not all doom and gloom following the 1-1 draw at home to Basel though. Here are five things that should cheer Kopites going into the second half of the campaign.
Lazar Markovic showed up, for 15 minutes at least.
Prior to the supremely silly red card for flicking his fingers at Basel’s Behrang Safari, the introduction of Markovic was beginning to look like a masterstroke from Rodgers.
The nippy Serbian completed three dribbles in his quarter-of-an-hour runout (only Raheem Sterling managed more for the hosts over the 90 minutes) and with Liverpool looking sluggish in attack all term, Markovic’s pace could be key to his side getting their season back on track.
There has never been a better season to drop into the Europa League.
Simply put, Liverpool gain all the benefits the continent’s consolation competition has to offer, which now includes a Champions League place for the winner, having avoided turning out against the likes of Asteras Tripolis, Krasnodar and Sheriff.
They’ll have little to fear from the likes of fellow Champions League drop-outs such as Zenit, Anderlecht and Olympiakos either. Happy days.
The Reds’ unbeaten run now stands at five in all competitions.
According to bwin.com’s top-four market, Liverpool’s realistic competitors for a Champions League berth are Arsenal at 1/2, Southampton at 3/1, Tottenham at 8/1 and Everton at 12/1, each of whom have lost at least once so far this month in the top-flight.
With the Gunners and the Saints in particular palpably struggling for consistency, the Reds’ 13/4 top-four odds don’t seem likely to get much longer any time soon.
Having shipped nine goals in their first five November games, Liverpool have been breached only twice in four fixtures since.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s inability to bag goals en masse since Daniel Sturridge’s injury three months ago, but the fact that, of the Premier League’s current top ten, only Spurs have conceded more so far this term has been as damaging.
However, goalie Simon Mignolet and his defence have clearly steadied the ship to some extent, and…
…now that Rodgers has accepted Steven Gerrard’s inability to play as a deep-lying midfielder, the healing process can begin.
Playing his skipper in the number ten role in a 4-2-3-1 formation was a glaring admission from the Northern Irishman that Gerrard’s days of trying to defend are practically over.
They ought to be, with Joe Allen, Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson all fit and replete with the vigour of youth; the Brazilian is the eldest of that trio at 27, over six years younger than the captain.
By accident or design, Liverpool’s XI suddenly looks to have a bit of balance about it.